Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

No Job Protections For LGBT Americans: Are You Angry Enough Yet To Take Action?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | March 17, 2010 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: blogswarm, employment discrimination, employment non-discrimination, ENDA, Pelosi, Speaker

Tomorrow, many blogs and journalists will be asking readers a question: Are you at all bothered by the fact that LGBT Americans have no job protections, and can be tossed from jobs even they are even suspected of being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?

Are you angry when you read the statistics on LGBT unemployment and underemployment and harassment?

Do you feel outraged for those who have to deny their partners' existence or their own identity?

It is a question I have had a lot lately: where is the anger?

As David Mixner said in the title of his blog post on Tuesday, Being Liked Is Not A Strategy. Anger is an appropriate emotion sometimes. Smiling your way through life when people are treating you like dirt is not the response that a healthy person have. No civil rights movement has succeeded without an appropriate anger at mistreatment.

How do you feel when you see this image after the jump?

You should be angry when you see this stonewalling. You should feel moved to demand our rights. Because as President Obama said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

What are you demanding?

Call Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-4965


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Actually Jillian, that quote was originally from Frederick Douglas(had to Google it, but knew it wasn't an Obama original), but your point is well-taken. We need to really get proactive about this.

Check out this clip of John Aravosis interviewing Nancy Pelosi, especially the last part where Pelosi herself brings up the issue of trans inclusion in ENDA.

The quote is from an oration Frederick Douglass gave on August 4, 1857 speaking about the emancipation of West India. The complete quote is very powerful in context, and is germane to the subject at hand (emphasis mine):

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they get. If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others.

By the end of the Civil War, and by the end of the 1960's civil rights movement, Douglass's evaluation proved true time and time again.

In compariosn, I hate to say it, but I doubt that LGBT people are angry enough to throw off their shackles. Our oppression continues to be like the elephant in the living room that no one wants to mention.

Excellent, Becky - thanks for those tidbits. I may use them in tomorrow's post.

Thank you too, AJ - I love the quote. I'm going to use it in tomorrow's post.

Let's see. You and Mixner think that not expressing anger means we want "to be liked." First, of course we want to be liked - everyone does, but that's not the point - we also want to be EFFECTIVE.

You and Mixner have simply resorted to insulting people by suggesting if we don't make useless calls, or send useless emails or support ineffective lobbying, that we want to "be nice" or "assimilate."

You are free to bang your head against a wall, the rest of us are using ours to figure out how to actually win. That includes being honest and objective about what works and what doesn't work.

You've made progress Jillian. You admitted last week that all of our emails ended up in some "ocean," and that traditional methods and HRC have "failed." Now, we're supposed to harass Pelosi by irritating the receptionist, and if you follow more of Mixner's 60s tactics, engage in civil disobedience. You both need to acknowledge that this is 2010. Even PETA stopped using civil disobedience 15 years ago.

We have amazing ways to communicate with people that are much more effective than complaining and shouting.

It isn't about being "nice," it's about being smart and holding tactics, strategies and organizations accountable. It's about figuring out how to win. It's also about saving people from more frustration because they heed your calls for senseless head-banging.

"the rest of us are using ours to figure out how to actually win"

Can you provide information on how we can join your current effort? Please explain in detail what we are supposed to do. And "who are the rest of us"? Everyone except Jillian? You keep coming in here and trashing Jillian's effort yet you aren't saying anything helpful.

Thank you.

If Jillian stops banging her head against the wall and instead uses it to seek solutions, I think we'll all be better off.

We still have some of the best and brightest in our community wasting time and energy. That needs to stop.

For the past year I've spent a lot on R&D and I've met with hundreds of LGBT individuals and organizations across the country. These have been very useful conversations and many valuable ideas have been explored. While that work continues, it is important for all of "us" to be completely honest and objective about tactics and strategies. We need the strength to let go of tired tactics that cannot be proven effective.

I believe Jillian is a community Leader. I'd like to see her succeed with a real, workable and winning strategy. Our movement has never had a winning strategy. Finally, one is being produced.

SarasNavel | March 18, 2010 4:32 PM

It's good to see LGBT-folk rallying for a just cause, if for no other reason than to raise our visibility. Obviously there are many other reasons as well. Please keep in mind that the following are more observation than objection:

1. Andrew has a point with his analogy using telemarketers and the like; they became so annoying that eventually their ability to do so was blunted with legislation. That said, there is a very important difference between the largely commercial interests he mentions and constituents making their voices heard to their representatives, a core mechanism of our democracy.

2. I mentioned this late on another post:
"Everyone is pushing for some iconic, unspecified 'inclusive' version of ENDA created by the same Rep.Frank as last time in the same way that we trusted Obama would be everything we'd dreamed of and bring us cookies and warm milk at bedtime.
Not to be a naysayer, but do we even know yet what is *in* this latest proposed inclusive ENDA that everyone is pushing so hard for? From the bits and pieces released in the wild so far by HRC and B.F., I'm very concerned that it's inclusive in such a way as to box some of us in just enough to not be a political threat in the future. And if it does, it will do so without granting us full equality or protection, guaranteeing an impractically long uphill battle to realize any further gains."

3. I'm all for contacting our representatives and have already done so today with the message that ENDA not only needs to happen but it needs to be fully protective of those it purports to help. However, I have a feeling that until we escalate this into a more public sphere, somehow people like Speaker Pelosi will see our messages merely as small, private conversations between a limited community and herself.

It is about, my dear Andrew, making opposing us so costly in terms of annoyance to our opponents that they stop opposing us.

It can be done.

It should be done.

But it won't be done becuse too much of the LGBT community is looking for an easier way, through lobbying, through hoping that people learn to like us, etc...

We will not get our rights precisely because we are a minority that it is safe to ignore.

"It is about making opposing us so costly in terms of annoyance to our opponents that they stop opposing us."

So, just annoy them enough and they'll give up?

Telemarketers are annoying.
Westboro Baptist is annoying.
People who chew with their mouths open are annoying.
Forwarded emails are annoying.
People who repeat themselves are annoying.
People who repeat themselves are annoying.

I wish I could find some example of annoyance creating something positive. I know some use that ancient saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," and that's all about "attention." We have attention.

Jillian asked us to annoy Nancy Pelosi. How is that effective? Is Pelosi now part of the "opposition?"

Discomfit and disaccomodate, then.

Sounds like a plan. I can't see any real reason not to pass this this year. There's not even really anyone lobbying against the ENDA except for a few far right crazies.

Sarah Riggle | March 18, 2010 8:30 AM

How do we fight to protect and help pass ENDA when I live in a state that allows employers to fire people without cause. What make us think that passing ENDA will prevent employers who actively discrimination from firing someone just because!

Good question, Sarah. There is a myth out there that employers are allowed to discriminate if state law permits "employment at will," referring to the legal doctrine that employers may hire or fire for any reason or no reason at all.

The truth is, all states have such a legal doctrine in place. Civil rights laws, however, supercede the "employment at will" doctrine. Even though employers continue to have the right, everywhere in the US, to hire or fire "at will," they may not do so on the basis of a protected category, such as race or religion.

If passed, ENDA would stop employers in every state from hiring or firing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

True, Jillian, but in a "work at will" state the employer is not required to give any reason at all for terminating an employee. What this means in the practical sense is that if a person feels they've been discriminated against by their employer and wants to sue, the burden of proof is entirely upon the employee to prove that discrimination was directly due to something prohibited by law to the satisfaction of the court.

What many companies will do, particularly in states where there are LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws on the books, is to put the employee in a situation, either through transfer or other means, where their presence causes controversy and complaints. Once enough of these incidents have been documented to provide the company with a credible excuse to terminate the employee for cause (thus saving the company money on unemployment benefits), the employee is terminated because the company knows that in the vast majority of cases the employee will not have the financial means to fight back legally.

I've been down this road, and the reality is that the system is set up so that unless you're wealthy enough that you can afford to pay a good lawyer to pursue your case while you look for new employment chances are that you'll never see a judge, even in a state that has trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws already in place.

Activists are sitting in for ENDA at Pelosi's offices in DC and SF. Check out this video: http://tinyurl.com/y9oplrx

It's also being live twittered @getequal.